Baseball is a Way of Life in the Dominican Republic by Colette Weil Parrinello, FACES Magazine, April 2016, Cricket Media, Chicago, IL
by Gloria Lannom
Baseball has been the heart and passion of
the Dominican Republic since the 1800s. The
sport is not just a pastime, but also a lifestyle. Kids
and adults play in the streets, on fields, in alleys,
everywhere. Astoundingly, this small country of
10 million people (the population of the state of
Georgia) produces more players for U.S. Major
League Baseball (MLB) than any other country in
the world, other than players from the United States.
In fact, 10.3 percent of all the players in the major
leagues, 25 percent of the upper minor league
rosters, and nearly half of the lower minor rosters
come from the Dominican Republic.
Dominican’s baseball roots started in Cuba. In
1866, American sailors brought the game to Cuba.
When Cubans fled to the Dominican Republic
after the Ten Years’ War, the game was passed
to Dominicans and their passion for “beisbol”
exploded. Workers in the sugar cane fields formed
baseball teams for entertainment. The sport turned
competitive with neighboring countries in the 1920s
and the Dominican Baseball League was born. The
sport weathered a financial downturn in 1937 and
professional baseball emerged in 1951. Ozzie Virgil,
Sr. was the first Dominican-born player in the MLB
Passion, Economics, and Training
But why are there so many professional baseball
players from this small country? The answer lies
in a combination of factors contributing to the
success of Dominican players in the MLB — passion,
economic need, and training infrastructure.
The Dominican Republic is a poor country
with 37 percent of the population living below the
poverty level. Kids love the sport and see baseball as
a respected way out of poverty.
Baseball is a Way of Lifeby Colette Weil Parrinello
Play ball! Baseball is the most
popular sport in the country.
Famous Dominican players such as Albert Pujols
and Pedro Martinez bring pride and respect to
all Dominicans, and serve as role models for the
whole country. They demonstrate Dominican
power, speed, grace and joy of the game. Along
with their outstanding accomplishments of elite
athleticism, fame, and fortune, they have also
given back to their local communities.
The sport thrives because the passion and
talent are groomed. Kids regularly drop out
of school to play. The number of Dominican
players in the MLB skyrocketed in the 1980s
when MLB teams started building professional
training academies. To acquire a player in the
Dominican is far cheaper for MLB teams than
in the United States. Dominican players are not
subject to the U.S. player draft. Today, all 30
MLB teams have an academy in the Dominican.
Academies provide training, food, nutrition,
education, and housing to nurture young
At age 16 Dominican teens can try out for
the MLB team academies and earn a signing
bonus if they make it on a team. The average
annual 2015 income in the Dominican was
$6,040. In 2011, the average academy signing
bonus was $131,000 — and ranges today from a
few thousand dollars to over a million. This is a
tremendous boon for the young player and his
family that may now be able to buy a house,
car, pay for healthcare, or fund a business.
And, this is before they have made it to the
United States. The young player is not eligible
for U.S. MLB teams until age 18. An MLB team
can acquire many young Dominican players
for around the price of one second round draft
pick in the United States
Talent is identified and nurtured at early
ages by buscones. Buscones are independent
scouts or agents who will find players or have
talent come to them. When the player is ready,
the buscon will contact the MLB team scouts,
if the team scouts haven’t already seen the
The business of baseball is a source of pride
for communities and gives them an economic
boost. Successful players return to invest in
their local towns. Academies have brought
new construction and jobs. Local people are
employed for the services in the academies
on the grounds, in coaching, education,
food service, and maintenance. Local small
A coach assesses the
latest group of players.
Dominican players hope their hard work pays
off with an offer from a Major League team.
• The impact of MLB academies in the Dominican
Republic is that 400-500 players are signed every year.
• Twenty-seven of the 30 MLB academies are located in
eastern Dominican Republic between the resort town of
Boca Chica and San Pedro Macorís.
businesses serve the needs of the
player’s family, buscones, academy
employees, and visitors to the
Kids see baseball as hope for
a change in their lives. They are
motivated by their deep enjoyment of
the game and the opportunities that
the game may offer. The infrastructure
of buscones and the MLB academies
helps make this a reality for many, and
the successful athletes are a source of
Colette Weil Parrinello is a frequent
writer for magazines. She loves
baseball, the San Francisco Giants,
and is a co-regional advisor for the
Society of Children’s Book Writers and
Pedro Martinez was treated to a hero’s welcome after it was announced he had
been elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2015.
The baseball diamond . . . the stuff of dreams.